BUFFALO, NEW YORK (TICKER) —It’s been a tough two nights for the Dallas Stars.
One night after their franchise-tying 10-game road unbeaten streak came to an end, the Western Conference leaders endured a 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, who are tied for the lowest point total in the NHL.
Dallas fell to the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, in overtime on Thursday but did not arrive in Buffalo until 4:30 a.m. EST due to poor weather.
“As the game wore on, we kind of were starting to run on fumes,” Stars center Mike Modano said. “Obviously, that wasn’t the best situation you can have as far as travel. Eventually, that kind of thing is going to catch up with you, especially on back-to-back nights.
On Friday, the Stars was handed their first road regulation defeat since a 3-1 setback at Nashville on December 26. They were hoping to reclaim the NHL’s point lead from the Senators, but Ron Tugnutt - who had been 4-0-0 with a 1.02 goals-against average after losses - surrendered goals to rookie Ales Kotalik, defenseman Brian Campbell, Stu Barnes, Curtis Brown and Jason Botterill.
“We made some mistakes,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “We only gave out 20 shots, but we gave up five goals. It’s pretty hard to win when you are on the road giving up five goals.”
Brown’s 13th goal snapped a 3-3 tie with 12:22 left in the third period. Kotalik passed the puck out from the left corner and Brown put it through Tugnutt’s legs for a 4-3 lead.
“It was a real nice play,” Brown said. “We kept the puck in along the wall. The defense poked it down. Ales saw me when he got the puck in the corner and made a real nice play. I was able to kick it up and get it away real quick. I think I startled the goalie a little bit.”
The Stars had a goal disallowed with three minutes left after video replay officials ruled that Claude Lemieux’s stick was over the crossbar when he deflected the puck into the net.
“If it hits close to my hand on the shaft it could have been good,” Lemieux said. “That’s why we’ve got video replay. I’m sure they made the right call.”
Recalled hours earlier from Rochester, Botterill sealed the win with his first goal with 1:29 remaining. He was leading the American Hockey League with 36 goals at the time of his call-up.
Tugnutt finished with 15 saves as Dallas dropped consecutive contests for the first time since a three-game losing streak from December 21-26.
“Tonight was a tough night,” said Tugnutt, making his eighth straight start in place of an injured Marty Turco. “I think I made some good saves but there were a couple of goals I’d like back. It’s about making timely saves. We kept battling back but I couldn’t make the save to maybe give us a chance to take the lead. It’s just better the sooner I forget about it.
“For me personally and for all of us in general, we need to focus more on details and doing the same things that have made us successful all year and not getting the way from not getting away from them right now.”
Martin Biron turned aside 31 shots for Buffalo, which improved to just 4-8-1-3 in its last 16 contests. The Sabres are 4-1-1 in their last six home games vs. the Stars, who were handed just their third regulation loss in their last 28 games (17-3-7-1).
Dallas owned a 16-6 edge in shots in the first period, but Buffalo held a 2-1 lead.
Kotalik one-timed Miroslav Satan’s cross-ice pass from the left faceoff circle at 4:42 into the opening period for his 15th goal.
Campbell doubled Buffalo’s lead at 5:23 with his first goal in 56 games. Satan came around the net and feed Campbell at the right of the crease. He got the puck between Tugnutt’s leg and the right post for his first goal since March 24 against Ottawa.
“It was a relief,” Campbell said. “You take a lot of stuff from the teammates - a lot of jokes and whatnot. The goal was going to come someday, but it took a lot longer than I expected.”
“We came out flying, had a real good start,” Brown said. “Against a team like this, you know they’re going to show up, bring a real good effort and obviously it didn’t take too long and they were back in this. It was real nice to see the guys come out and we played a real strong period. We were able to get the lead and add on it.”
Satan collected three assists and has 10 points in his last eight games.
Defenseman Philippe Boucher, a former Sabre, cut got Dallas on the board with his fifth goal at 9:24.
“We got behind when the first two shots went in,” Tippett said. “When you get behind in a game you have have to start chasing the game (plan). Tonight would have been a game to play a solid game and see where it got you, but because of our back-to-back (games) and travel situation, we chased the game from the get-go and you lose a lot of energy doing that.”
Buffalo captain Stu Barnes scored his first goal in 21 games at 12:17 of the second period for a 3-1 lead. While killing Adam Mair’s holding penalty, Barnes redirected Rhett Warrener’s shot from the right point for his 10th goal.
“We had a little bit of pressure going,” Barnes said. “(Satan) made a great play, keeping the puck in and holding on to it. He threw it back to Rhett, and he just threw it at the net. I just tried to get a stick on it and change the puck’s direction - lucky enough, it went in.”
But Jere Lehtinen set his career high for goals in a season with 26 with 2:12 left in the second when he snapped a wrister under the crossbar.
Less than two minutes later, defenseman Derian Hatcher knotted the game at 3-3 with a power-play goal. After receiving a pass from Modano at the top of the faceoff circle, Hatcher moved in closer before blasting a shot past Biron for his sixth goal.
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